What to write?

Last year, I started with little more than an opening paragraph. I wrote my way into the story and figured it out on the way. I did have the physical structure of a road trip to lead me along, and that helped the story to move forward.

Share the Road was a man vs man sort of novel. I like the way the book turned out, but it is a relatively simple plot with only a few characters. I wanted to write a more typical novel this time around. More characters and story lines. But what to write about this time?

I was wrapped up in the last book for most of the year, but wondering what I would do next was lurking in the back of my mind. As November approached, I was starting to panic. I had nothing.

One morning, I was listening to a podcast on the way to work. The Seattle affiliate of NPR does a show with Nancy Pearl, a librarian worthy of her own action figure. She discusses books once a month, usually under a tenuous theme, though they go off on tangents when they present themselves.

I don’t remember the theme of the particular podcast, but it had me in the literary mind as I drove. Then I saw something in the car next to me that sparked an idea. It started to spin into something over the next 15 miles. It was something. Finally.

I wrote some things down in the first few days after the spark, but little later. I wanted to be better prepared this time. I wanted to do a little planning, maybe draw up a rough outline of how the story would progress. But the story sat tucked away in the back of my head, safe from any active work.

As is typical, I crammed for finals. I still didn’t plan out the book in outline form, but I at least thought about the characters, their histories and their motivations. Sticking with On Writing as my guide, I plan to let them discover their own story.

Hopefully they have some good ideas.

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